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Crystal Pattern Mapping: A New Technique For Restoring Obliterated Serial Numbers

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Serial numbers on firearms offer investigators a reliable method for tracing ownership. To avoid this connection, criminals will often attempt to obliterate these by scratching, gouging, and grinding the numbers away. Or at least damaging them so that they become unreadable.

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There are many techniques for restoring such numbers. Things like acid or electrical etching, magnaflux, ultrasonic cavitation. But these techniques don’t often work and some can damage the evidence. (See Below)

Now those clever folks at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new method: Crystal Pattern Mapping. This technique employs a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and reads the electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), which reveals the obliterated numbers.

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An intriguing and useful new tool for the forensic scientist.

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From HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS:

RESTORING SERIAL NUMBERS

Sometimes it’s obvious that a particular gun was the murder weapon. It is found at the crime scene, along the perpetrator’s escape route, or where it was discarded, and the forensic fi rearms examiner matches the gun to the bullets removed from the victim. But that information doesn’t identify the gun’s owner or who fi red it. In this situation it is useful to discover if anyone had registered the gun. Even if the registered owner is not the killer, he might have given the gun to someone, or it might have been stolen and the murder and the gun theft can be linked. Comparing the evidence in the two cases would move the investigators closer to identifying the perpetrator.

But criminals are clever. They often attempt to grind or file away the gun’s serial number in the hopes that the weapon can’t be traced. If so, the examiner has a few tricks he can employ in these situations.

The most common are magnaflux, chemical and electrochemical etching, and ultrasonic cavitation. Each relies on the changes in the structure of the gun’s metal that follows the serial number stamping process. When the metal is pressure-stamped, not only is the metal indented with the numbers, but also the metal beneath the numbers is stressed and undergoes structural changes.

MAGNAFLUX: This is only useful if the weapon is composed of iron-containing metals. The gun is placed in a strong electromagnetic fi eld or beneath a strong magnet, which magnetizes the weapon. The lines of magnetic force in a magnetized object usually run parallel to each other, but the disordered metal beneath the stamped numbers disrupt this order. The gun is then sprayed with a special oil in which iron-like particles are suspended. The particles tend to collect in the areas of disordered metal, thus revealing the hidden number. The major advantage of this process is it is nondestructive and doesn’t alter the weapon.

CHEMICAL AND ELECTROCHEMICAL ETCHING: These are destructive processes, which limits their use. They involve the painting of an etching solution over the area in question. The chemical eats the disordered metal faster than the surrounding metal, and thus brings the numbers into view. Adding an electric current (electrochemical etching) hastens the process. Either of these must be done carefully, since over-etching will destroy the evidence forever.

ULTRASONIC CAVITATION: This technique is similar to chemical etching and is also a destructive process. The gun is placed in a special ultrasonic bath and exposed to very high-frequency vibrations. This causes cavitation, a process in which tiny bubbles form along the surface of the metal. With continued exposure, the cavitation begins to eat away the metal. The process is fastest in the areas of disorder and, as with chemical etching, the serial number might be revealed.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Human Head and Leg Found Inside Tiger Shark

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Back in November, 2014, fishermen in the Philippines hooked a large tiger shark. Not all that uncommon. But what they found inside was very unusual. A human head and leg. Some believe the victim had been a passenger on the MV Maharlika 2 ferry that sank near Leyte a few weeks earlier on September 13th.

It was a tiger shark that took the arm of surfer Bethany Hamilton several years ago. But the attack didn’t run this brave young woman out of the water though as she continues to be an active, competitive surfer.

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This incident reminded me of the famous and fascinating 1935 Shark Arm Case in Australia. One that involved, forgery, blackmail, and murder and one where the shark was another innocent victim. The case was convoluted and confusing and raised many questions—-not the least of which was ”what constitutes a body?” Is an arm enough to say that a person was indeed dead?

I used this case as an example of corpse identification in my book Howdunnit: Forensics

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From Howdunnit: Forensics:

FORENSIC CASE FILES: JAMES SMITH—THE SHARK ARM CASE

In April 1935, two fishermen caught a large tiger shark off the coast of Sydney, Australia, and donated the creature to a local aquarium. A few days later the shark regurgitated a well-preserved, muscular, Caucasian human arm. The shark was sacrificed and an autopsy was performed, but no more human remains were found.

The arm appeared to have been removed by a knife rather than by the shark’s teeth. Further, the knife wounds appeared to have occurred postmortem. The arm bore a tattoo of two boxers squaring off. Through meticulous work, fingerprints were obtained, and they indicated that the victim was James Smith, an ex-boxer with a criminal past. His wife identified the tattoo.

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Further investigation led the police to Patrick Brady, a known forger and drug-trafficker, who had gone on a fishing trip with the victim just before his disappearance. Police theorized that Brady killed Smith, hacked him to pieces, and stuffed his remains into a trunk that was missing from the fishing shack the two men had shared. Smith’s arm must have slipped free in the water and been swallowed by the shark. Under questioning, Brady implicated another man named Reginald Holmes, who was himself shot to death the day before the inquest into Smith’s death was to begin. Brady’s attorneys obtained an injunction from the court, halting the inquest on the grounds that an arm was not sufficient evidence to bring murder charges. The police charged Brady with murder anyway, but a jury, likely influenced by the court ruling, acquitted him.

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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Join My Author TweetChat Tuesday August, 26 at 8 p.m. EDT

I’ll be doing a TweetChat on Tuesday 8-26-14 from 8 to 9 p.m. EDT (5 to 6 p.m. PDT) to chat about writing and my latest Samantha Cody thriller ORIGINAL SIN. Join the discussion and you might win one of two signed copies of ORIGINAL SIN I’ll be giving away during the chat. It’ll be fun.

How do you join a TweetChat? It’s easy and simple. Go to http://www.tchat.io/ and sign in with your Twitter account. Then enter the hashtag #AuthorTweetChat. At 8 PM (EDT) the conversation will begin. All you have to do is watch the conversation. @AuthorTweetChat and our social business influencer @brianmoran will ask DP Lyle questions and he will respond with Tweets. If you want to join the conversation, enter a Tweet in the designated area and tchat.io will post your message for you. 

In Summary:

1-Go to http://www.tchat.io

2-Sign in with your Twitter account

3-Type in hashtag: #AuthorTweetChat

4-Watch and join the discussion

 

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Posted by on August 24, 2014 in Uncategorized, Writing

 

Crime and Science Radio This Saturday: An Interview With Barry A.J. Fisher, Past President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

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Crime and Science Radio: The Changing World of Forensic Science: An Interview With Barry A.J. Fisher, past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

Join DP Lyle and Jan Burke for a discussion with Barry A.J. Fisher, who spent two decades as the director of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s crime labs. We’ll talk about his career, the present and future state of forensic science, new legislation and and how  the public can help to ensure the betterment of forensic science services.

BIO: An internationally regarded forensic scientist and leader in his field, Barry A. J. Fisher retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s crime lab after a 40 year distinguished career, the last 20 as crime lab director. He was responsible for conceptualizing, planning and coordinating the new LASD/LAPD crime lab located at California State University named the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center and the creation of the California Forensic Scince Institute.

Barry received his B.S. degree in chemistry from CCNY, his M.S. degree in organic chemistry from Purdue University and an M.B.A. from California State University, Northridge. He is a past president of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, past chair of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board, past president and distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences where he was awarded its highest honor, Gradwohl Medallion. He served as president of the International Association of Forensic Sciences and is a member of many other professional organizations including the IAI, CAC, TIAFT, CAT, and the IACP. 

His current interests concern the interrelationship between forensic science and the law along with public policy issues concerning the timely delivery of quality forensic support services to the criminal justice system. He served as a member of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section’s Ad Hoc Committee to Ensure the Integrity of the Criminal. 

He is a founding director and served on the Board of Directors of the National Forensic Science Technology Center from 1995 until 2007. Fisher is a member of several editorial boards:  the Journal of Forensic Sciences, the Journal of Forensic Identification, Forensic Science Policy and Management and the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Fisher is an alumni member of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents and a life member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and was a member of the IACP’s Forensics Committee. 

His textbook, Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, in its 8th edition, enjoys wide popularity.  He is a co-author of two other books, Forensics Demystified and An Introduction to Criminalistics: The Foundation of Forensic Science.

Fisher lectures throughout the United States, and has spoken in Canada, England, Australia, Singapore, France, Israel, Japan, China, Turkey and Portugal on forensic science laboratory practices, quality assurance and related topics.  In 2000, he led a forensic science delegation to lecture to forensic scientists in the People’s Republic of China.  In 2012, he was invited again to China to lecture on forensic science developments in the United States.

Since retiring, Fisher has consulted for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United States Department of Justice, International Criminal Investigative Training Program (ICITAP) and Analytic Services Inc., a not-for-profit institute that provides studies and analyses to aid decision-makers in national security, homeland security, and public safety. He also consults on forensic science matters with Park Dietz and Associates.

Fisher, a native New Yorker, is married. He and his wife Susan reside in Indio in Riverside County, California. They have two married sons: David, a criminalist with the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Forensic Biology Department, and Michael, an entrepreneur, and eight grandchildren.

LISTENhttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2014/06/24/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-barry-fisher

LINKS:

Announcement of Formation of the National Commission on Forensic Science

LASD Scientific Services Bureau

LAPD Scientific Investigation Division

American Academy of Forensic Sciences

American Society of Crime Lab Directors

American Society of Crime Lab Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board

Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center

World Forensic Festival, Seoul, Korea, October 2014

International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program

National Academy of Sciences 2009 Study: Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States

National Forensic Science Technology Center

American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section

International Association of Chiefs of Police

American Bar Association Science and Technology Section

 

Crime and Science Radio: Burning Down the House: An Interview with Fire Investigator John Lentini

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Crime and Science Radio: Burning Down the House: An Interview with Fire Investigator John Lentini, Saturday, March 15 at 10 a.m. PDT

John Lentini will educate us about scientific fire investigation, what can be learned from examining the scene of a fire, and why improved training and scientific approaches to fire investigation are so important.

John Lentini, author of Scientific Protocols for Fire Investigation, is one of the leading fire investigators in the U.S.  He is the president and chief investigator of Scientific Fire Analysis, LCC.  He is a certified by both the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI). and is a certified Diplomate of the American Board of Criminalistics, with a specialty in Fire Debris Analysis. He was a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences 2009 President’s Panel on Scientific Integrity.  He has authored over 3000 technical reports and testified in over 200 cases since 1975.  He has testified for both Plaintiffs and Defendants, and as a neutral court-hired expert. He has appeared on Frontline, 20/20 and other television programs.

LISTEN

LINKS:

Scientific Fire Analysis: http://www.firescientist.com

ABC News: Fire Expert: How I Nearly Sent An Innocent Man to the Electric Chair:

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/john-lentinis-fire-arson-investigation/story?id=10562869

Lime Street Fire: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lime_Street_fire

International Association of Arson Investigators: http://firearson.com/home

National Institute of Justice: A Guide for Investigating Fire and Arson: http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/investigations/crime-scene/guides/fire-arson/Pages/welcome.aspx

Fire Investigation: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_investigation

InterFIRE: The Anatomy of an Arson Case: http://www.interfire.org/res_file/arsnanat.asp

Scientific Protocols for Fire Investigation, Second Edition, by John Lentini

Scientific Fire Analysis, LLC

A Basic Explanation of How Fire Works (from HowStuffWorks.com)

“Arson Forensics Sets Old Fire Myths Ablaze” NPR interview with John Lentini

“Spark of Truth: Can Science Bring Justice to Arson Trials?” Discover Magazine

“Arson Myths Fuel Errors” Chicago Tribune

“Trial by Fire: Did Texas Execute An Innocent Man?” Story on Willingham case in The New Yorker

Trailer for Incendiary: The Willingham Case

Frontline’s Death by Fire program on the Willingham case

“Fire Expert: How I Nearly Sent an Innocent Man to the Electric Chair” 20/20 article

Link to downloadable fire science publications by John Lentini 

ABC News’s 20/20: Evidence Under Attack in Two Texas Arson Convictions

National Association of Fire Investigators

National Fire Protection Association

International Association of Arson Investigators

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Book Review: FEAR NOTHING by Lisa Gardner

Fear Nothing.

 

 

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

Dutton Adult

January 7, 2014

ISBN-10: 0525953086

ISBN-13: 978-0525953081

400 pages

If this story has a theme, it’s pain. Physical, emotional, psychological pain.

Fear nothing? Fear everything. And everyone.

There are dysfunctional families and then there are dysfunctional families. Some have quirks, idiosyncrasies, while others are down-right pathological. Fear Nothing  deals with a family that redefines the term dysfunctional.

This is Gardner’s sixth Detective D.D. Warren novel, and like her other psychological thrillers, this story will keep you awake and make you think. D.D. is her usual ballsy self but the engines that drive this story are Dr. Adeline Glen and Shana Day, estranged sisters, daughters of Harry Day, an infamous and brutal serial killer who ravaged his victims by removing strips of skin as trophies. Now a series of eerily similar killings attracts D.D.’s attention. The perpetrator is dubbed the Rose Killer for his, or her, habit of not only taking away strips of his victims’ skin but also leaving a bottle of champagne and a single red rose at the scene. Who is the Rose Killer? Is there a connection between him and Harry Day? Or maybe Adeline and Shana?

If this story has a theme, it’s pain. Physical, emotional, psychological pain. D.D. suffers pain after a fall—or was she pushed?—down a flight of stairs at a crime scene she foolishly re-visited at night, alone. A serious and painful shoulder injury results. This plagues her throughout the story and leads her to the offices of Dr. Adeline Glen, a woman incapable of feeling pain. She suffers from a rare neurological disorder that renders her immune to painful sensations, a condition that has severely limited her life, making sports and many other activities unwise. How could she know if and when she injured herself? Devoid of painful sensations, bruises, breaks, and bleeding could easily go unnoticed and ultimately be life-threatening. But this limitation leads her to a career in psychiatry where she specializes in pain management. It is the management of her shoulder pain that leads D.D. to Dr. Glen’s office.

And what of Adeline’s sister, Shana? She has been in prison for thirty years of a life sentence for killing a childhood friend. Or did she? Was she simply so anti-social that her conviction was inevitable or was she truly a deeply disturbed sociopath, capable of killing without remorse? One thing for sure is that Shana relishes pain, repeatedly inflicting it on herself, and others. Fellow inmates, and even the prison guards, tread carefully in her presence.

The Danse Macabre that unfolds among D.D., Adeline, and Shana creates a convoluted plot that will keep you guessing, and intrigued, until the final page.

Lisa Gardner writes great psychological thrillers and Fear Nothing is yet another excellent example. Highly recommended.

Original Review for the NY Journal of Books:

http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/fear-nothing-detective-dd-warren-novel

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Anthony Award Nominations Announced

Nominations for the Anthony Award have been announced and MORE FORENSICS AND FICTION is one of the nominees.

 

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Congratulations to all my fellow nominees. They are:

BEST NOVEL:

Dare Me – Megan Abbott [Reagan Arthur]

The Trinity Game – Sean Chercover [Thomas & Mercer]

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn [Crown]

The Beautiful Mystery – Louise Penny [Minotaur]

The Other Woman – Hank Phillippi Ryan [Forge]

 

BEST FIRST NOVEL:

Don’t Ever Get Old – Daniel Friedman [Thomas Dunne]

The Professionals – Owen Laukkanen [Putnam]

The Expats – Chris Pavone [Crown]

The 500 – Matthew Quirk [Reagan Arthur]

Black Fridays – Michael Sears [Putnam]

 

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL:

Whiplash River – Lou Berney [William Morrow]

Murder for Choir – Joelle Charbonneau [Berkley Prime Crime]

And She Was – Alison Gaylin [Harper]

Blessed are the Dead – Malla Nunn [Emily Bestler]

Big Maria – Johnny Shaw [Thomas & Mercer]

 

BEST SHORT STORY:

“Mischief in Mesopotamia” – Dana Cameron, EQMM, Nov 2012

“Kept in the Dark” – Shelia Connolly, Best New England Crime Stories: Blood Moon [Level Best]

“The Lord is My Shamus” – Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder, p.97 [Wildside]

“Peaches” – Todd Robinson, Grift, Spring 2012, p.80

“The Unremarkable Heart” – Karin Slaughter, Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance, p.177 [Mulholland]

 

BEST CRITICAL NONFICTION WORK:

Books to Die For: The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels – John Connolly and Declan Burke, eds. [Hodder & Stoughton/Emily Bestler]

Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947-1950 – Joseph Goodrich, ed. [Perfect Crime]

More Forensics and Fiction: Crime Writers Morbidly Curious Questions Expertly Answered – D.P. Lyle, M.D. [Medallion]

The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery Agatha Christie – Mathew Prichard, ed. [Harper]

In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero – Otto Penzler, ed. [Smart Pop]

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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